Kirsten Dunst was spotted running around Tokyo’s Akihabara district in an outfit reminiscent of “Sailor Moon.” It turned out Dunst was filming a video with director McG called “Akihabara Majokko Princess” for artist and business entrepreneur Takashi Murakami’s “Pop Life” exhibition at London’s Tate Gallery.
Now the film has leaked online, and in accordance with initial rumors, Dunst does sing the 1980 Vapors’ hit “Turning Japanese” — a song that may not be about masturbation as initially believed but is certainly not actually about Japan. In fact, using the song or its title in reference to anything Japanese is probably the greatest cliché of English Japan coverage outside of photos of a geisha talking on a cell phone.
Murakami’s video project, however, goes for the shallowest interpretation, twisting the “Turning Japanese” mantra into shorthand for the global embrace of Japanese pop culture. Starring in the video are the heroes of the “Japan Cool” movement Murakami himself and Nigo — founder of street fashion brand A Bathing Ape.
This sounds like a high-concept, big-budget art project on paper, but the overall effect is a cringe-worthy parade of clichés upon which Murakami never makes any sort of artistic statement. The video only starts to make sense when viewed through Murakami’s usual modus operandi: Selling the West the Japan it wants rather than the Japan that exists. In other words, “Akihabara Majokko Princess” is not as much art as a pop culture fairy tale for Anglo-American eyes.
Vapors’ classic “Turning Japanese”